Minnesota Vikings 2021 Fantasy Preview

Vikings Fantasy

Unlike most teams in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings are a tight unit when it comes to fantasy points. Last season, the Vikings had only four players score more than 100 total fantasy points. Those players were Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen. While the Vikings had an active offseason, their offense will look very similar this year. Let’s take a look at what fantasy players can expect from the Vikings this season.

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 Fantasy Football Previews.

Quarterbacks – Kirk Cousins

In his three seasons as a Viking, Cousins has finished as a top-15 or better quarterback each year, finishing as a top-12 quarterback twice. Last season, Cousins finished as the QB11 despite having only 516 pass attempts, marking the second-lowest of his career as a starting quarterback. Furthermore, only two other quarterbacks finished top-14 last season with fewer passing attempts: Lamar Jackson and Ryan Tannehill. The advantage both had over Cousins is their rushing ability. Where Cousins had an advantage was in passing touchdowns. Last season, Cousins had a career-high 35 passing touchdowns, finishing sixth in the league. With his talented wide receiver duo, Cousins should have no trouble finishing as a low-end QB1 for the third time in the past four years.

Running Backs – Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison

Most fantasy experts agree that Cook should be the second overall pick in all single quarterback leagues, only behind Christian McCaffrey. Last season, Cook finished as a top-12 running back in 71.4 percent of his games. Furthermore, Cook finished outside the top-24 running backs once last season. What makes Cook so appealing to fantasy players is his role in the red zone. Last season, Cook had the highest running touchdown rate with 1.14 per game. Cook also led the league in red zone touches (66), touches inside the five-yard line (26), and goal line carries (20). After dealing with injuries early in his career, Cook has played in 14 games in back-to-back seasons. Assuming Cook stays healthy, expect another top-three finish this season.

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Backing up Cook is the third-year pro, Mattison. Over the first two seasons of his career, Mattison has been productive, averaging 0.71 fantasy points per touch. Furthermore, Mattison is one of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy football. In the two games Cook missed last season, Mattison averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game. Even in games where Cook played, Mattison would get enough work to be a flex option in deeper leagues. Last season, Mattison scored 6.9 or more fantasy points in four games with Cook active. If you draft Cook, adding Mattison in the double-digit rounds is a must. Even if you don’t draft Cook, adding Mattison is a wise move as he is one injury to Cook away from being a top-12 running back.

Wide Receivers – Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dede Westbrook

Despite averaging only 32.5 snaps per game over the first two weeks of the season, Jefferson finished as the WR6, averaging 17.1 fantasy points per game. However, Jefferson ended the second half of the season on fire. Over his final eight games, Jefferson averaged 19.7 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, Jefferson had six games with 21.5 or more fantasy points last season. Despite his impressive numbers last season, Jefferson has plenty of room to grow. Last season, Jefferson had a 19.4 percent red zone target share. By comparison, the top-five wide receivers had an average of 27.6 percent red zone target share. After his strong rookie season, expect the Vikings to feature Jefferson more in 2021. It shouldn’t be a surprise if Jefferson finishes the year as the overall WR1.

Last season, Thielen had a career-high 14 touchdowns and an 18.2 percent touchdown rate. Many believe Thielen will regress this season because of his touchdown production. However, that isn’t the case. Since Cousins joined the Vikings in 2018, Thielen has been a fantasy star. During that span, Thielen has averaged 16.5 fantasy points and 0.71 touchdowns per game. Over a 17 game pace, Thielen would score 12 touchdowns this season at 0.71 per game. Furthermore, in the two seasons that he has played 15 or more games with Cousins, Thielen has scored at least nine touchdowns each season. Even if Thielen losses some touchdowns to Jefferson, he still should have no trouble scoring double-digit touchdowns this season and finishing as a high-end WR2.

Recently, the Vikings signed the former Jacksonville Jaguar wide receiver to build up their depth behind Jefferson and Thielen. He will compete with Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette for targets. Last season, Jefferson and Thielen combined for 82 percent of the team’s wide receiver targets. Unless you are playing in a 16 team or bigger league, there isn’t a reason to roster any of these receivers unless Jefferson or Thielen suffer an injury.

Tight Ends – Irv Smith

Many believe Smith is a sleeper now with Kyle Rudolph in New York. However, that isn’t going to be the case. In the nine games both Smith and Rudolph played, Smith played an average of 62 percent of the snaps per game. By comparison, in the four games without Rudolph, Smith played an average of 71 percent of the snaps. Furthermore, in the four games without Rudolph, Tyler Conklin averaged 70 percent of the snaps per game. Despite Rudolph averaging only 3.1 targets per game, Smith had only three games with seven or more fantasy points with Rudolph on the field. Meanwhile, in the four games without Rudolph, Smith had only two with more than seven or more fantasy points. Expect Conklin to cut into Smith’s workload, keeping him out of the top-12 tight ends.

Defense/Special Teams

During the offseason, the Vikings focused on fixing their defense after finishing last season as the D/ST27, averaging 3.6 fantasy points per game. The headline addition was eight-time pro bowler Patrick Peterson. The Vikings also made other additions to their secondary, adding Xavier Woods, Bashaud Breeland, and Mackensie Alexander. They also used a pair of third-round draft picks on defensive end Patrick Jones and linebacker Chazz Surratt. Furthermore, they will get back Michael Pierce after he opted out last season because of Covid-19. All these new additions, combined with development from the younger players, will help the Vikings D/ST bounce back this season. The unit finished as the D/ST7 in 2019 and could finish top-10 again this season.

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Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
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